Creating a Loving Relationship When Your Spouse Has Dementia

Husband giving his wife a Valentine's day present

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. This annual celebration of love means couples across the country will turn their attention to their special someone. Giving a gift of flowers, chocolates and/or a special dinner out have become part of the traditions of the day.

But what if your special someone has dementia? According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 15 million people in the United States care for someone living with dementia. Your spouse may not even recognize your or what your relationship is. The disease may have changed the person’s appetite for intimacy – either increasing or reducing their desire.

So what can you keep romance alive if you have a loved one living with dementia? Here are some ideas of how to keep an intimate relationship with someone you love.

Meet your loved one in their new world

Don’t spend your time longing for the way things used to be. Your loved one is still around and while being together may require some adjustments, love them where they are in this moment. You can still share touch, love and affection.

Look for cues

If your loved one appears open to holding hands, or a gentle neck massage, take those opportunities to connect. Alzheimer’s doesn’t generally diminish a person’s need to feel cared for. Dr. Daniel Marson, director of the Alzheimer’s Center at the University of Alabama Birmingham, says that research clearly shows that older adults as a whole retain a strong interest in intimacy. The specifics of that activity may be expressed in a different way, but, as Dr. Marson notes, “that doesn’t mean that the desire to be intimate goes away.”

Share your feelings

Your loved one may not always understand who you are, but be willing to communicate your love and commitment. If your loved one is open to being touched, give them a hug and tell them how excited you are to be in their company. Gently caress their hands while talking to them. Even if they can’t understand the full scope of your relationship, they may very well understand you are someone who cares for them, which will put them at ease.

Reminisce about the past

Many people with dementia can still recall moments from their past. Ask your loved one if they remember the day you first met or your wedding day. Bring pictures along to help jog their memory. Sharing good times of the past is an excellent way to establish intimacy and keep your connection alive.

Ask for help

If you are your loved one’s primary caregiver, ask for help from family, friends or a home health professional from LifeSource. Our caregivers are experts in creating a safe, comfortable and compassionate environments for those living with memory loss, providing you with the time to take care of errands, tend to your own healthcare needs, or plan a special getaway to visit family or friends.

Celebrate the good times

During those times when your loved one recognizes you and has a “good” day, take some time to acknowledge that and celebrate. The ability to see the beauty in life is an essential element in loving someone living with dementia.